No justice for St Mary's

Your editorial on St Mary's South Brisbane parish, while cautiously balanced, relies heavily on the only sustainable argument used by every commentator who supports the stance of Brisbane's Archbishop, namely, if you don't agree with the coach, expect to get kicked out of the club.

While, as Galileo and Mary McKillop would attest, this doubtless has the weight of Catholic Church history to support it, it has never guaranteed justice is served. And in an age where the majority of baptised Catholics have already substantially left the church, if current Catholics have no avenue to rally against an action which has been unjust both in its process and outcome, the members leave and the club shifts further towards conservative ideology.

An unjust process? The Archbishop, having visited St Mary's only once in Peter Kennedy's 28 years, has relied upon the evidence of those whom you rightly alluded to as 'spies'. How easy, to distil a few recorded words of 'unauthorised' prayer out of an hour's inclusive, spiritual and very Catholic service, the most popular parish in Brisbane.

The parish reply was not 'We will defy you' but 'Your information is flawed. Please come and see for yourself how 'in communion' we are.'

Many other Australian bishops would have done so; indeed, in the years following Vatican II, the parish would have been feted proudly all the way to Rome. It is this bishop at this time and place who chose not to dialogue with the parish before destroying it.

This bishop allows at least one conservative parish priest with a police conviction to continue serving his flock, albeit with restrictions placed on his access to children. Yet a widely admired priest who wears the wrong vestments and allows women to give homilies faces the axe.

Do club members have to accept every idea of every coach who is thrust upon them? The Archbishops supporters keenly point out that canon law answers 'yes'.

If this is true, as Eureka Street seems to suggest, then a reasonable Catholic parishioner who strongly disagrees with the decision should honourably resign from the club. Which is what I intend to do, having lost after 40 years battling for what I mistakenly thought was my church.

Topic tags: Justin Coleman on the St Mary's controversy, Archbishop bathersby, father Peter Kennedy



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In my interstate conference attending days 12 years ago, I happen to end up atttending Mass at St Mary's, South Brisbane. It was a surprising but a positive and spiritual experience.
In the a recent issue of the Tablet I read two articles where the Pope is foing everything he can to bring back two groups that have been excommunicated into the Church.

Please explain to me just what is the difference between ST Mary's, South Brisbane and these groups.

Nicholas Agocs | 20 February 2009  

And yesterday's paper carried an article about the young woman who portrayed the BVM in the WYD pageant leaving the church for Hillsong. The Catholic church is at serious risk of fading to a minor faith within our time, yes it survived the reformation but this time there are no armies to enforce orthodoxy; only valid argument and a capacity to adapt to the contemporary world without losing core values; neither of which it has displayed for many years.

chris gow | 23 February 2009  

I would have to put the view that a club-coach analogy trivialises the Saint Mary's situation that has been widely publicised. As for sustainable arguments I think that's best left that go through to the keeper!

From my perspective as a lifelong but far from uncritical Roman Catholic Peter Kennedy seems to be a popular leader of a Congregational Church in the non-comformist. There are many precedents. Please God this matter will soon be resolved so that all involved can get on with the daily task of witnessing to Christ in a still troubled world.

Denis O'Leary | 23 February 2009  

A more accurate analogy might be this:
What if the Brisbane Lions decided they were going to play Rugby instead of AFL - but they wanted to stay in the AFL, arguing that they were still playing 'football'.

N. Mitchell | 23 February 2009  

I think we have all been caught up with the St Mary's traumatic situation that has been played out to the full, and much to the delight of the media!

I am very pro-St Mary's without knowing the full story but... I would like to quote from Carlo Carretto.

For all his criticism of the church no-one ever doubted his love for and loyalty towards the church, "No I shall not leave this church, founded on so frail a rock, because I shall be founding another one on an even frailer rock, myself ."

If you will allow me to quote yet one more passage so relevant to the present situation.

"How much I must criticise you my Church, and yet, how much I love you! You have made me suffer more than anyone. I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence.You have given me much acandal and yet you, alone have made me understand holiness. Never in this world have I seen anything more compromised , more false, yet never have i touched anything more generous, or more beautiful. Countless times I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face and yet, every night, I prayed that C might die in your sure arms."

Peter Lynsky | 23 February 2009  

The church, under Pope Benedict is a very different church from the time when Pope John XXIII was in charge. Catholics (not me, I resigned years ago) are stuck with an autocratic negative Pope who tried to reverse the progress made by the 2nd Vatican Council, attacking its positive conclusions, beatifying the authoritarian Pope Pius IX and issuing edicts on contraception, artificial insemination, masturbation et cetera.

The church has made huge progress from the days when it was okay to kill heretics, and the Papacy had armies, secret police, teams of assassins, forward, no backward is the way to go.

To quote writer, Garry Wills: 'The arguments of what passes as current church doctrine are so intellectually contemptible that mere self-respect forbids voicing them as our own.' And he's still a Catholic.

As he says, 'Criticising the church and calling for reform should not be seen as an attack...we don't leave a father when he proves wrong on something. That's when he needs us."
All of which sounds good, but does criticising or attacking get us anywhere?

Ask Father Peter Stephens.

marie gordon | 23 February 2009  

Sycophancy seems to have a somewhat exulted position in present day Roman Catholicism. One need look no further than the hierarchy and many of the clergy. The defenders of the Brisbane archbishop and his clerical kind show proof of this. A basic question that should be asked is whether the archbisop himself and his followers are themselves in heresy when we study the findings of Vatican II. The dominant theme of the Council itself is that the People of God are the living church. As I see it, that is all Peter Kennedy is proclaiming. Unfortunately Kennedy is denied this by those who are fearful of losing a position of power.

john hill | 23 February 2009  

I applaud Eureka Street for publishing this article. The St Mary's community is the Church of the Future, caring, inclusive, passionate, justice orientated, on issues that one day the Church will have to address: such as the Pope's villifying of gays in our community (many of whom are born that way as a recent USA twin based research shows); and the Church banning divorced Catholics who remarry from holy communion.Why shut them out? Is that what Christ would have done?

I hope that all compassionate and thinking Catholics will support the courage shown by Father Peter Kennedy and those who attend St Mary's for they are fighting for the truth, especially when Church decrees are clearly wrong. The Archbishop wants mindless obedience and that might work for children, but not adults who question and search for answers on the difficult issues in life.

Vineta O'Malley | 23 February 2009  

What is it in the name Kennedy that seems to get up the nose of the institutional Church? First Ted and now Peter; both of them saintly figures who see the need of the people and who practice nothing more than the words and praxis of Jesus.

Good heavens, have we not, as an institution, gone away from Jesus into a need for the institution to effectively control its members. Never let us forget that the Church is the people. Get the hierarchy to read John Henry Newman.

Adrian Bellemore | 23 February 2009  

Original Christ followers would not have had prescribed garments and ritual - so the church has changed with the addition of accretions for reasons of 'tidiness' hence control - what is so non-catholic' about reverting to earlier practice? And what is so frightening?

Educated laity can not be put back into the mute box with the practice of antiquated corporate egomania. What is the church about - loving God and neighbour or obeying a system that seems to have forgotten its raison d'etre? Jesus gives us the answer in his reply to his accusers.

I guess the spies are Avery Dulles' 'church as institution people' - so much easier to feel holy toeing the party line and keeping the rules, enjoying the ensuing feelings of righteuousness than working out one's salvation with fear ánd trembling.

I thought it was all about loving the rest of the world into the reign of God - not petty spats about corporate control of a regional office - with a haunted middle manager!

(PS Are the laity too vocal?)

Hilary | 23 February 2009  

It is with dismay I read of this action. The Church welcomes all to worship not just the fundamentalists. Almost every Parish has some who are more severe in their attitude than than the most rabid protestant of a hundred years ago. They should look at themselves and see who is the true follower of Christ and be ashamed of themselves.

Pat Adamson | 23 February 2009  

I feel sad that the Archbishop has been forced into a messy challenge to Peter Kennedy at the behest of the Vatican but brought on by the sticklers for traditional detail taking their tales to Rome.

St Marys is truly a Vatican 2 parish with all the compassion and acceptance of frailty and pain that Jesus showed. While there are many wonderful pastors in the Brisbane Archdiocese they preside over terminally small congregations of predominantly aged people. The pre-Vatican 2 orthodoxy that seems to be challenged by St Marys Parish has been left long ago by many baby-bommers and certainly by the generation x-ers of Australia. The model of modernistion of Peter Kennedy is clearly the model for the future Australian church.

Mike Foale | 23 February 2009  

Any person who publicly scorns the validity of Our Blessed Mother's virginity is in dire need of prayers - that is the support he needs plus a good rest.

Mary | 26 February 2009  

Bravo!!! The spirit of Jesus is still alive, remaining unsuffocated by the oppressive, visionless, male dominated Church aristocracy who rely more on self-inflated rules than a beating heart. Where is Catholism more alive than at St Mary's? It takes an overwhelming, supportive congregation to prove that this is where Christ resides. They see God in their beautiful, compassionate priest, Peter, who has the "audacity" to stand firm in his role as Christ's true representative. Moldy, outdated dinasaurs in the Catholic Church need a "wake-up" call; need to move over and allow the natural process of change and revitalisation to occur. Trust the people's choice. We are the Church, too!! Or has the Archbishop lost sight of whom he is meant to represent? Peter is the symbolic "rock". I pray he continues to hold firm for he is certainly "blessed" to us. Let St Mary's bells toll out their joy and resilience, proclaim their message of truth and justice and drown out the condemnation and denouncements which we all know are feeding the fear of those who have forgotten their priestly call and whom Jesus really is.

rosie noble | 26 February 2009  

This is a sad time for the Roman Catholic Church which will clearly lose more of its flock. Catholic women are reminded once again of just how poorly they have been served by a church that does not see them as equals. Of course women should be allowed to preach.

Helen Seymour | 27 February 2009  

I have a few problems with this article, which I'd like to address:

First is in the statement:

"The parish reply was not 'We will defy you' but 'Your information is flawed. Please come and see for yourself how 'in communion' we are.'"

In fact, St Mary's response was more like 'we know we are breaking the rules but we think that's okay.' They acknowledged they were breaking the rules but insisted it should not be a problem.

Second is the point about the Archbishop only attending the parish once in 28 years - if the Archbishop were to make time to attend one parish a week, it would still take him years to make it to every parish in the Archdiocese (not to mentions schools). Also, Bishops (particularly of larger diocese like Brisbane) generally don't have time to go out of their way and attend churches; they normally have to be invited.

Finally, St Mary's is hardly 'the most popular parish' in Brisbane. At 1000 parishioners attending per week, St Mary's is not a small parish, but it is by no means exceptionally large. 1000 is considered about average for a Brisbane parish.

Alex Knight | 11 March 2009  

I don't really understand leaving the Church over such an incident. We are the Church of the Inquisition, the Crusades, and silence during the Holocaust. This is pretty small potatoes in comparison. As Martin Luther said, Rome IS the whore of Babylon. At some point you just have to accept that and get over it. No one is a Catholic because we are the most moral or the best run or any of that.

Frustration is understandable, especially when you find out that the Church you fell in love with is fundamentally screwed up. But as in the movie Taxi Driver, it's often the really screwed up folks who are the most important to stay with.

The Church is a whore, but she's our mother.

Peregrinus | 14 March 2009  

It is coming up to 12 months since this issue was in the media. Is anyone interested in St Mary's community and where it is at now?

Anne | 02 February 2010  

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